The offer of Russian underground for phishing campaigns

Pierluigi Paganini March 09, 2013

Russian underground is considered one of the most prolific black market, it provides various services that allow cybercriminals to arrange sophisticated scams and provide all necessary tools to arrange a cyber attack.

To get an idea of the main dynamics of a market so organized I suggest you follow the investigations of principal security firms in particular the researches of Dancho Danchev and the publications of Group -IB.

Last post of Danchev revealed the mechanism behind the process to arrange a spear phishing attack among Russian cybercrime.

The researcher found an underground market advertisement that offers access to data to sensibly increase click-through rate for a spear phishing campaign as illustrated in the following picture:


Once again the cyber criminals demonstrate an efficient sales model and deep knowledge of the customer’s demand, the “spam leads” include useful information such market segment, geographic data and company information that include fax, phone number and email.

The discovery is the demonstration that the crime is exploiting the possibility to provide data and tools to do illegal activities instead directly use them, Dancho Danchev remarked that millions of harvested emails are offered for sale. What is concerning is that within the huge quantity of information it could be possible to find data related to government and intelligence agencies, military representatives an government contractors.

In these scenarios professional attackers could benefit of the offer in the underground market of entire database containing harvested/compromised data, the information are easily accessible and allow hackers to sensible reduce the phase of information gathering on the targets.

Security community has observed the explosion of emerging DIY (do it yourself) trend within underground, novice cybercriminals try to make business with illegal activities outsourcing services (e.g. malware hosting) and acquiring tools and data.

How cyber criminals collect the information?

According the security experts they have various options to collect data for its commerce, let’s think to fraudulent offers that targets receive to improve their visibility on line or within a specific business sector. Adopting this tactic criminals are able to build huge collection of data also indexable on various axis of analysis. Targeting specific sectors in this way it is possible to acquire information to use for large-scale spear-phishing campaigns.

Of course cybercrime has a wide range of weapons in its arsenal to get the information for resale, among them the use of malware is certainly the most invasive and dangerous. It’s very easy to infect huge quantity of machines with malicious code able to steal any kind of information from victims. In the underground many serviced provide all necessary to spread malware to wide audience with very cheap costs.

Recently the activities of C2C (cybercrime to cybercrime) have multiplied, groups of cyber criminals exchange or provide services with “colleagues” to speed-up their activities in a job where the factor “time” is crucial. It’s very easy to rent a botnet of lease hosting services to spread malware.

Typically cyber criminals operate in the long term collecting huge quantity of data and addressing their research against specific sector of interests, most valuable information of course are related to Military and Government.

Another method cited by Danchev is the “Harvest publicly obtainable data by outsourcing the CAPTCHA-solving process”, the expert already provided evidences that humans are recruited for solving security challenge-response test, an army of low-waged solvers  earning a mere $2 for solving a thousand CAPTCHA’s.


“Keeping this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that money mule recruiters actively harvest data from job/career web sites; and other cybercriminals are doing exactly the same while targeting legitimate Web properties that exclusively rely on CAPTCHA to prevent such types of automatic abuse.”

The cyber criminals as well as to sell the information obtained can use it to conduct further attacks and expand the collection of data to offer.

To avoid to be victims of phishing campaign be aware of risks related to trust emails from unknown recipients or emails that appear to have a legitimate origin but that offer you “something” not requested and demanding info on you.

Pierluigi Paganini

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